Colourful, gnarly gourds are on the grocery shelves, we’ve had the first grilled acorn squash of the season, Okanagan pears and apples fill our fruit baskets and sweaters are making an appearance again.
Harvest is in full swing across BC and the northern hemisphere’s vineyards. Somehow, it’s already October, and Thanksgiving is days away. The holiday is a harvest celebration, first recorded in North America in 1621, though the tradition of celebrating harvest with a feast is one that predates Plymouth by hundreds of years. The guest list at the Plymouth plantation numbered approximately 90 Native Americans and Pilgrims coming together in camaraderie, feasting on wild turkey and corn.
The menu hasn’t deviated too much in 400 years, with turkey, corn and all the fixings the most popular Thanksgiving dinner across North America today. Now I can’t speak to what the Plymouth folks were drinking for their Thanksgiving fete, but I certainly can make some recommendations for your present day harvest celebration. The traditional turkey dinner can be a challenge to pair to, with all the different flavours, spices, side dishes, textures, temperatures – and guests – at the table. Keep in mind that with the exception of its darker hind quarters, turkey is essentially just another white meat, and as such its flavours are easily manipulated by whatever you put into it and serve with it. The number one side? Unquestionably the stuffing. Admit it – it’s the highlight of the table. As such, we’ve based our suggestions for turkey dinner not on the bird itself, but the flavourful stuffing.
Here are our Top Ten picks for Thanksgiving feasting, one local and one international. All satisfy our personal #1 pairing requirement – be a tasty drink.
First up is a classic roasted turkey with bread and sage stuffing. This combination works well with chardonnay, particularly those made in the softer, buttery style with hints of green apple and herbs that really pick up on the pungent aromas of the dressing. The Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2013 is brighter, fresher and juicier than ever. A touch of cream on the palate plumps up gently and subtly, carrying ripe, pure Okanagan fruit and subtle clove spicing. Forget the residual sugar stories or California oak bomb legacy, the Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Vintner's Reserve 2013 has evolved into one of the tastiest California chardonnays in its price range. Look for a creamy, ripe fruit nose, the balancing off of sugar and acidity and a touch of lees pulling it all together with a fresh, generous finish.
If turkey with a sausage stuffing is your thing you will probably be dealing with a spicebox of seasoning led by fennel, paprika, chili, clove, ginger, garlic, peppercorn and sage. To counter the fiery flaovurs turn to the cool fruity aromatic whites such as viognier, riesling, ehrenfelser or gewürztraminer. Now in its 10th vintage and en pointe like never before is Tantalus Riesling 2014. Orange blossom, lime peel and stone aromas carry through to a juicy, fleshy palate. Crunchy, citrus acidity keeps it bright before closing with with peach fuzz spiciness. A bright blend of grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette, marsanne, viognier and bourboulenc opens the Gabriel Meffre Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc Cuvée Saint-Vincent 2014. A light sheen of lees carries through along the finely spiced, lightly savoury palate, drawing light pear, green fig and citrus along with the flow. Well handled, and amazing value.
Turkey with oyster and breadcrumb stuffing, sometimes described as oysters Rockefeller in a pouch, calls for a crisper, drier white. Unoaked or lightly oaked pinot gris or pinot blanc should do the trick. Always consistent, Oliver’s Tinhorn Pinot Gris 2014 features its characteristic herbal grapefruit edged form. Bright orchard fruits rule the nose: pear, Asian pear, white peach and apple. A medium bodied, dry palate carries ripe pear, abundant honeyed spices, nectarine and white peach, with the crisp fruit holding form alongside creamy, fine lees. From north-eastern Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, Di Lenardo Pinot Grigio Monovitigno 2014 is fresh with a bright acidity green, grassy, citrus, apple quince flavours with a light buttered nut undercurrent. Austere in a good way, this carries a long clean persistent finish.
A wild mushroom and wild rice stuffing calls for the earthy, cherry, savoury nuances of pinot noir. We all know family get-togethers can benefit from a little Therapy session. Make yours liquid by way of Therapy Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012. This medium bodied, finessed pinot carries wood, bright cherry and candied strawberry on the lively palate, with earthy rhubarb and fine spices riding fine grained tannins to a lifted cranberry finish. From Chile’s oceanic-freshened Limari Valley comes the mouth-watering Tabali Reserva Pinot Noir 2013. Citrus, spicy red fruits, plums and a dash of rhubarb goes down soft and silky, finishing with a wisp of vanilla.
Finally, turkey with fruit stuffing, be it plums, figs, apples, cranberries, prunes, or raisins, calls for big, fruity peppery wines based on shiraz. Okanagan Crush Pad’s Narrative Red 2013 brings together syrah and gamay for this juicy, dark berried red. Lightly smoked black cherry, roasted meats, strawberry jam, black pepper and floral violets ride along smoothed, subtle tannins and ample white and black pepper spice. From South Australia, Yalumbia Organic Shiraz 2014 is youthful and bright, with dark cherries, damson plums and soft spices. The soft palate carries the same perfumed black fruits and bumbleberry along a raft of black pepper spice, with no oak to mask the freshness.
Wines listed above are sold in a mix of BC Liquor Stores, private wine shops, VQA wine stores or direct from wineries. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at GOW.